Perhaps a draw against Everton was the perfect result for Brendan Rodgers to go out on; a disappointment, yes, but not an unmitigated disaster from which return was impossible. It certainly seem to sum up his time at the club.
Liverpool confirmed yesterday that Rodgers had left the club in the aftermath of the draw with the Toffees, after a three-year spell in charge that was marked as much by its inconsistency as anything else.
The former Swansea boss was a much-derided figure during his time at Anfield, thanks in part to his relentless optimism and manager-speak, as well as his questionable dealings in the transfer market. But do the numbers reflect the perception of the 42-year-old, or was he a secret success that no one knew about?
We've put together a few figures to try and get to the bottom of Rodgers' confused reign in charge of Liverpool.
Let's start with the big one; Rodgers' spent around £300 million, once the fee for Danny Ings is set, on 31 players including four loans. However that's just one number, he recouped around £200 million from selling 33 players - some he wanted to let go, others not so much - which puts his net spend at around £100 million.
In terms of overall squad cost, the latest batch of figures available from the 2013/14 year show that Liverpool had the fifth most expensively assembled squad in the Premier League at a cost of £228 million, just a couple million behind Arsenal. It's no surprise that last season the four richest teams in the league finished in the top four spots, so in that respect it would appear that Rodgers just about matched expectations.
His problem is that the second-placed finish two seasons ago is, in all likelihood, the exception rather than the rule. That season was earmarked by the genius of Luis Suarez and his partnership with Daniel Sturridge who, with the help of others, helped the Reds score more than a hundred times. A longer set of studs would have meant the title returned to Merseyside for the first time in 23 years.
Rodgers had previously spoken of his frustration at losing players he wanted to keep hold of, but unless he takes charge of a genuine superpower that is always likely to happen. The most difficult thing to figure out is where to apportion blame. The club's now infamous transfer committee - which consists of FSG chief Mike Gordon, chief executive Ian Ayre, director of scouting Dave Fallows, chief scout Barry Hunter and director of performance Michael Edwards - means it's impossible to blame one person, although it's worth nothing that their remit is to find good, young players for Rodgers to develop - an area where he had questionable success to say the least. The onus was on him to take good players and make them great in order to crack the top four, rather than buy his way into the party.
Some reports suggest he was against the signing of Iago Aspas and Alberto Moreno, however, it has also been claimed he tried to veto the arrival of Daniel Sturridge. Whatever the truth, Rodgers has now paid the price as the only man no longer on the committee.
Liverpool's current financial situation means they were always swimming upstream when it comes to regularly challenging for the title, although FSG will certainly be hoping that the playing field is levelled out by the expansion of Anfield.
Their turnover for 2013/14 was £265 million, the fifth highest in the league, and their wage bill was the fifth highest in the league. No prizes for guessing their average league finish in the three years under Rodgers. For what it's worth, Tottenham, another top-four hopeful who have finished 5th, 6th, 5th and 5th over the last four seasons, had a squad valued at about £50 million less than Liverpool, with £44 million less on their wage bill every year too.
Should either club be able to free themselves from these restraints? Both have managed top four in the last decade, but neither has been able to sustain a run amongst the big boys, which is telling.
The cache of Liverpool means they're still scrapping with the best in some respects; their deal with Warrior and then New Balance was valued at £300 million which is the same as Chelsea's Adidas deal, but that's still well short of Manchester United's £750 million deal with Adidas, while Chelsea's shirt sponsorship package is streets ahead of the Reds agreement with Standard Chartered too.
More worryingly for the club is that the latest set of accounts show less growth in terms of revenue than their top four rivals (they made a £50 million jump in revenue, compared to Manchester City's £76 million, Manchester United's £70 million, Chelsea's £60 million and Arsenal's £55 million), so the gap is getting bigger and without Champions League football at Anfield that trend will continue.
Rodgers managed 219 points, the fifth most in the Premier League over that time period. His win ratio through his first 100 games as Liverpool boss was second only to Rafa Benitez in the Premier League era. That number dipped slightly to around 50% by the end but all in, that's pretty good, right?
Perhaps Liverpool's greatest problem is that they live in the shadow of their illustrious past. Kenny Dalglish, in his first spell in charge at Anfield registered a club-high 60% win ratio, while legends such as Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley manages 52% and 57% respectively. Rodgers isn't a million miles behind but crucially all three won the league title, something Liverpool haven't done in the Premier League era.
That's a slightly unfair comparison, though; during Liverpool's pomp they were able to attract the very best players; now they're consigned to losing stars like Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling. In his leaving statement, Rodgers said he was leaving behind a 'squad in transition' after another summer of big spending with plenty of departures to boot. Three years in and the rebuilding was still ongoing, and that tells you all you need to know.
An investigation into Liverpool's 2014/15 season spelled the end for two of Rodgers' most trusted comrades, Colin Pascoe and Mike Marsh. Rodgers survived but was on his last life, which meant changes were made to his approach. Dating back to his first tentative steps into management, the Northern Irishman has always placed a heavy emphasis on possession.
'When you’ve got the ball 65-70 per cent of the time it's a football death for the other team. We’re not at that stage yet, but that’s what we’ll get to. It’s death by football," he said in an interview shortly before taking the Liverpool job. Contrast that with his comments before the 0-0 draw against Arsenal earlier this season. When discussing how best to beat the Gunners, he said: They [teams who have beaten Arsenal] only averaged four shots on target with 43% possession. That tells you you don’t need to dominate the ball but you can dominate the space.
"That is important in the away games. Tactically we’ll arrive in a good mind about how we can win it. There are certain games you look at the approach to get you the result and that is something we have been working on this week.”
Much was made of Rodgers' drift away from the keep-ball game with which he forged his reputation. In the first five games of this season, Liverpool clocked up less than 50% possession on average, putting them squarely in the middle of the pack. It is perhaps of no surprise that as soon as his side lost their identity they began to struggle, before the situation reached its inevitable conclusion.
The obvious caveat to that is Rodgers may well have come to the conclusion that the possession game can only get you so far until you come up against a defensively solid team who are ruthless in front of goal, like Chelsea were in 2013/14. He may have been trying to forge a new style using the players he had at his disposal. Either way, it didn't work.
Aside from the second placed finish in 2013/14, their sixth place last year was Liverpool's joint-best since the 2008/09 campaign; and it's that sense of perspective that casts some doubt over Rodgers' departure.
Liverpool are no longer the club they once were, and the fans and owners know that. The crux of the matter is this; do they believe Rodgers or his successor should be able to smash through the cash barrier with the resources at the club's disposal?
However the change of manager doesn't change the underlying problems at the club, and Jurgen Klopp reportedly wants the transfer committee gone. The German is undoubtedly a charismatic leader and was able to slay the giants that are Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. But despite that, the David v Goliath act isn't quite as it seems; Dortmund are still the second wealthiest club in Germany.
Their transfer policy is unlikely to change regardless of the presence of a committee, and they won't be able to attract the best names who command the biggest fees until they're back near the top for good.
Where Rodgers is unlikeable, or at least his public persona is, Klopp is the type of manager that fans will unite behind as they embark on an uncertain future. Having built the club around Rodgers and FSG's specific transfer philosophy, Klopp faces one hell of a job. Only time will tell if he can do what Rodgers failed to do.
Finish the sentence: Brendan Rodgers failed at Liverpool because __________________
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